Posted by: Pip Campbell
There’s more than one way to enjoy views like these. MIKE CRANE PHOTO
Just south of Whistler you’ll find the turnoff for the Callaghan Valley, home to the Ski Callaghan Nordic Centre which combines the terrain and facilities of Whistler Olympic Park and Callaghan Country into one spectacular outdoor playground.
The area is well known for the extensive network of cross country skiing and snowshoeing trails but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the activities on offer. Here’s a quick list of things to see and do in the Callaghan Valley beyond the world of nordic which make a trip to the area more than worthwhile.
1: Fat Biking
Fat tires are all the rage right now, and at Whistler Olympic Park you can hire and try these bad boys on designated multi-use trails. On Wednesday evenings when the park is open later fat bikes may be allowed on additional trails —headlamp required for those wanting to get intrepid. There are four bikes for rent at the park (reserve in advance), or you can bring your own.
Video: Brian Hockenstein Cinematography / Tourism Whistler
Whistler Olympic Park has a dedicated sledding hill and has sleds and helmets available on site and rental is free (helmets are mandatory for the kids). You can bring your own saucers, carpets or toboggans too if you have a sliding vehicle of choice. Use of the tobogganing hill is free with park access which is charged by vehicle — so the more kids you take the better! The day lodge is close to the sledding area if the need for food, washrooms or warming up arises.
LEFT: All smiles on the tobogganing hill! RIGHT: The day lodge patio is a great place to break for some eats. MIKE CRANE PHOTO
3: Bromely Baseboarding
Featured at the World Ski and Snowboard Festival last year, these baseboards are a bit like skeleton let loose — it’s all head-first and fast. They’ve built a baseboard-specific learning area and track at Whistler Olympic Park so you can really let loose. No experience is necessary and the minimum age for baseboarding is 8 years old, making it a great family activity (Insider Tip: ask about local and family discounts).
4: Winter Waterfalls
Anyone can sit and watch a waterfall in summer but a winter waterfall can be quite spectacular. Depending on the weather they can be either raging torrents, dramatic formations of ice and snow or both. Alexander Falls is a 40 m tall waterfall with a viewing area easily accessed from the road, with just a short walk in from the parking area (note that this may be snowy or icy – good footwear and caution required). Look for the exit before the Ski Callaghan gates.
For a different view of the waterfall you’ll need to get your snowshoe on. Head to the nearby Alexander Falls Ski Touring Centre, buckle into snowshoes and take the Alexander Falls loop to see the waters from the base. At only 2.5 k it’s a short distance, but there are steep sections on the trail so it is not recommended for a first-time snowshoe trip. This is also one of many trails in the Callaghan where dogs are welcome and allowed off-leash – if you like to ski or snowshoe with your furry friend, check out the map for dog-friendly trail options and bring them along!
A photo posted by Chris M (@chrismullinphoto) on Jan 20, 2016 at 5:48am PST
5: Backcountry Access
Thanks to its elevation and location the Callaghan Valley enjoys exceptional snowfall, making it a fantastic spot for backcountry day trips with access starting from the Alexander Falls Ski Touring Centre. There’s also a weekend snowcat shuttle service which can whisk experienced backcountry enthusiasts up to Callaghan Lake for touring in the Upper Callaghan Valley.
For those looking to spend a little more time in the wilderness, the Journeyman Lodge is a full service backcountry chalet accessible only by xc skis, touring skis or snowshoes. It’s a ‘rustic-luxe’ haven offering food, accommodation, hot showers and a wood-fired Scandinavian Sauna — all set in the pristine silence of the backcountry. Use it as a base to explore the nearby xc trails, go ski touring or simply to escape the real world for a while. Be warned —there is NO TV so you may just have to revive the lost art of conversation…or silence.
Ok, this is a little bit nordic, but you can’t ignore the fact that the facilities at Whistler Olympic Park are world-class. You can relive the glory of the 2010 Winter Games by gliding past the green Olympic rings like a gold-medal-winning athlete, try biathlon or even take a beginner ski jumping lesson. If you want to watch the pros in action, meet up with local skiers or challenge yourself make sure you time your visit to coincide with one of the great nordic events like the upcoming Sigge’s P’ayakentsut Cross Country Ski Event. (Insider Tip: Mid-week is a brilliant time to go with $5 access, rentals, and meal specials on Wednesday nights — late access tend to wrap up after mid-winter so be sure to check with the venue before you go).
With world-class terrain in a beautiful setting, it’s not hard to see why the Callaghan Valley is known for cross country skiing. MIKE CRANE PHOTO